International ambassador for the 13th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, two time Olympic 400m men’s hurdles winner Edwin Moses, dwarfed the Azad Maidan marathon media centre on Thursday with his stature and quietly compelling personality, as he came in for the formal meet ‘n’ greet, as all ambassadors have done through the years.
Usain Bolt. Pic/Getty Images
The lanky American, dressed in all-black, leapt on to the dais and it was easy to rewind to the days he flew over those hurdles with effortless grace and breathtaking speed.
Asked by moderator Tim Hutchings, whose intelligent questions kept it peppy, about what he thought about Mumbai, Moses said he had been here at least five to six times. It’s a busy city, really buzzing, but, unfortunately, I myself have been too busy when here to really experience the city. What really fascinates me is the colour, spices, markets, the cultural experience that is India,” said Moses, sounding like a page right out of a National Geographic magazine.
Edwin Moses at a media conference yesterday. Pic/Onkar Devlekar
There was one answer to a question that made everybody sit ‘Bolt’ upright. Moses had just explained the many races he used to run when competing, and how he used to race often. When he was asked about the great Usain Bolt, he said, “The fans need to see more of Bolt. He runs the big races, five times a year, like other top athletes, but maybe, that is not enough, they are not getting enough.”
A hallmark of a true champion is longevity and consistency, both which Moses had in plenty. Asked how he kept his motivation and focus for so many years, Moses stated, “For me, it was never about timings or competitors, it was about lifestyle.” Moses also said, that his knowledge and practice of physical fitness, “was 10-15 years ahead of
my time, with physical therapy, ice baths, flexibility… I had so many elements on my checklist… ”
Moses gave a glimpse about the tremendous sacrifices made by athletes at this level, when he said he used to race in Europe, “all summer” hardly went home at all.
In response to an abiding memory of his career, Moses spoke about the 1976 Olympics, “I was 20 years old then. I knew I had an appointment and date with someone,” he said about his Olympic gold.
He talked about how frustrating it was when US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, “I had to wait eight years for another Olympics and that was an extraordinarily long time to wait, then. There was so much frustration. I remember at that time, running four races in six days in different countries in Europe.”
Of his bronze medal in Seoul in 1988, Moses stated that, “I was in my best shape then, actually. Better than I ever had been before.”
When it is about track and field, doping is never off the radar and Moses had only this to say, “I always represent the clean athlete. I really, really believe in that. From an athlete’s point of view, the doping is disgusting. Everybody who is responsible should be held accountable.”
He rounded off the conference saying that the running boom has hit India, and the marathon is a wonderful, inclusive event. When asked when his book is coming out,
the bespectacled, studied Moses, looking very much like the elder statesman of world athletics that is, stated, “It will, in due time, there were plans to release it during the
London Olympics, but there were at least 26 other Olympic books released during that time and I did not want it to get lost.”
Moses was buttonholed by eager beaver journalists for that one exclusive quote, even as he exited from the media centre, and he obliged for a while, before loping off towards the elevator, giving us a glimpse of the fluidity that made him seem to sprout wings when he took on the world in the 400m hurdles.
Post the Moses conference, both the men and the women’s elite field of marathoners spoke to the press. All were from East Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, all attest to the wonderful intra East African rivalry being played out on our roads. The tenor of the answers was that thought it is hot and humid in Mumbai, the athletes both men and
women are better prepared, “better than ever” they stated for the race. Mumbai is already salivating at the prospect of seeing the African safari set a roaring pace this Sunday.